My March 2019 Mood Board Is For The Girls

I really and truly love being a woman. We rise to the occasion no matter the cost. Our bodies are at once battlegrounds and fertile soil, and our minds can conjure solutions to any puzzle thrown our way. We’re storytellers, soldiers, protectors, artists, scientists, stylists, mothers, and friends; what’s not to love about us?

My greatest defenders have been women. When I was so low the sun couldn’t reach me, I was pulled up and back into the light by the hands of women who dared to fight for a broken person. Thanks to them, I get to constantly rediscover the beauty of this life. Thanks to them, I get to reshape my world. That’s why today’s post – my March mood board – is dedicated to women.

Love us or hate us as you will, we’re not going anywhere.

jane austen.
Jane Austen
Solange
Samantha, Hel Looks
Samantha, Hel Looks
Via
Mermaid Crowns
Chelsea’s Flower Crowns

Single Fawn

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Kinuko Y. Craft

momoirostudies: “ [25.03.17] Better-late-than-never spread partly inspired by @smoinerd bc her spreads are just stunning 🌸 I don’t know if you can tell but I like flowers. ᕕ(✿ •◡•)ᕗ �

Floral Women's Baseball Cap. Hand Embroidered Flowers. Summer baseball cap. Womens hat. Gift for Women. Dad Hat. Gift for hiker.
Via

staycation ideas

F-ing beautiful!

Girly stuff, illustration by Inna Moreva @inna.moreva

Just ordered my copy of the latest @honeybenaturalmag #LettersToOurDaughters! I love the strength exuded by the young Queen on the cover and the messages inside are so powerful! Head over to HoneyBeeNatural.com to order yours AND read the digital version. #BuyBlack #SupportBlackBusiness
Via
Blueberrybucket
Via
Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, shoes and outdoor
Via
@taryndraws
Via

Ode Chapter 1: Cover

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Captain Marvel
Zendaya for Lancome

Thank you for reading! Happy Women’s History Month!

Inspired By: Matt Baker And Jackie Ormes

I grew up reading DC and Marvel, watching animated series about Batman and the X-Men,  and rushing to the theater for each new incarnation of my favorite heroes. I’ve even gone as far as cosplaying with my family at the San Diego Comic Con (which was a blast)! There’s an air of encouragement that comes along with reading about heroes and in many ways they are our modern mythologies; each time they succeed, I feel challenged to find ways to be the heroine of my own story, or to push myself beyond my limits.

The 91st Academy Awards aired last night, and I was elated to see comic book films were able to claim trophies  in several categories, with wins in Best Animated Feature (Into the Spider-Verse), as well as Costume Design/Production Design and Best Original Score (Black Panther). The women who won for Black Panther – Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler –  were the first Black women to win in their categories, and Peter Ramsey – one of the directors of Spider-Verse – was the first Black director to win in the category.

In honor of the historic wins last night, and of the books I love so much, today I want to honor two people who broke barriers in the field. Enjoy!

Jackie Ormes

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Jackie Ormes was the first Black woman to become a comic illustrator. Born in 1911 as Zelda Mavin Jackson, Ormes would become famous for creating the Torchy Brown comic strip and Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger. Jackie initially worked as a journalist for the Black-owned Pittsburgh Courier newspaper before making the transition to comic illustrator and writer in 1937 with the Torchy comic. Jackie was prolific artist, who worked until retirement in 1956.

What I love about Jackie is her dedication to confronting racism, sexuality, and environmental issues. She became so outspoken that she was eventually investigated by the FBI. In 2014, Jackie Ormes was posthumously inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame. She was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Industry Hall of Fame in 2018.

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Matt Baker

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Matt Baker is known today as the first Black man to become a comic book illustrator. He was born ten years after Jackie, in 1921, and eventually moved to her stomping ground of Pittsburgh as well. Baker was sought out and hired for his beautiful drawings of buxom women, who were heroines and adventurers.  He is most widely known, however, for Phantom Lady.  I love that Baker drew her, and other women, as strong, brave and formidable, within a realm that usually presented women as solely sexual objects.

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Additionally, Baker is credited with the creation of the first Black hero in the comic realm, known as Voodah.

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The Power of Representation

Can you remember the first time you felt like you saw yourself in a character? Who was it? In what medium did it occur? And can you still feel how important that moment was?

If you’re like me, the answers might be manifold, because you had to piece together images to arrive at a close-enough snapshot of who you are, or were, when you starting searching those characters out. I had to rely on several characters to begin to see myself, starting with Princess Leia, and I ended up with a mixture of women who were imperfect, but fierce and loyal. Being able to watch them on TV or read their stories in comic books made me feel less alone in a confusing world. With the added confusion of being Black, a girl, a survivor, and admittedly weird, and it was even harder to feel seen. That’s why it has been so life-changing to discover characters who not only look like me, but share some of my quirks.

I want to talk about representation today, not  because it’s a buzzword of the moment, but because in many ways it has saved my life.

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Giphy

What is representation?

Representation is a term that’s floated about quite often, but I’m only now becoming aware of how powerful it is in the shaping of lives and dreams. When we talk about representation we’re calling for media industries from books to movies make sure stories about different kinds of people are not only told, but also accurately portrayed. I think a lot of times those in positions of power think slapping a Black bestie in a flick is good enough, but, alas, that will not do.

Representation means that the writers, crew members, directors, producers, actors, artists, EVERYONE, aren’t all coming from one place and looking the same. It’s greater than Black and White, and all-encompassing. Representation means a kid in Uzbekistan can see someone on screen who looks like them, or a woman in a wheelchair from Harlem has access to Harvard. Boiled down to its most concise meaning, representation just means that everyone should get a chance to claim their seat at the table.

Why does it matter?

I believe it matters for a simple reason: when you see yourself in heroes, whether they be in academia, or leading a movie,  you start to take chances on yourself. You start to believe in your worth, where you might have otherwise given up. Being able to see myself in various characters across the spectrum of media has allowed me to redefine what I can do. I don’t have to be relegated to the wings in this life due to my appearance or where I come from.

Even better than that, is the truth that representation breeds more empathy. By listening to the words of people from various backgrounds we are opening ourselves up to see beyond the differences, to get to the heart of what makes us all the same. Our world is made richer when we are able to look at someone else and see what we share.

academy awards illustration GIF by Cartuna
Hidden Figures

How can we help?

Things have gotten so much better, but we’ve got a way to go. Many of the stories we champion are still quite one-sided. They lean towards straight, cisgendered, able-bodied, and white-passing. But the world is round, just like we like it, and full of all kinds of stories that don’t belong in a perfect box. To ensure representation doesn’t slow down, we have to invest in people who are doing it right, i.e. putting our money where our mouths are, and divesting from things that aren’t down with the plan. I read books by authors who tell unique stories, go to movies with casts that reflect the world as it is, and invest in other pieces of art by those who might not otherwise be seen. Additionally, I do my best to turn the people in my life on to those things as well. On the flip side, I pass on projects that are dedicated to holding up progress. It might seem small, but every step counts.

I hope this post helps to embolden you to seek out different kinds of stories, and people, to further your own growth. Being able to find slivers of myself across mediums has been life-changing in untold ways, and I think it can be for you as well. Let me know in the comments the first time you saw yourself in a book, movie, scientist, or comic!

 

Self-love and Building Bonds Through Hair in The Black Community

I have yet to meet a black person – woman or man – who doesn’t have strong feelings about getting their hair done. If you mention a barber, you might see one of us shudder, or you might get a bright smile if you ask who did such and such’s braids. Hair is an event in my community, sacred for it’s ability to elevate or destroy, an elixir for the worst of downs and best of ups,  while bringing strangers together for a few hours.

Personally, most of my favorite memories involve acting “grown” in the salon with my mother and the stylist, while Judge Judy or Oprah played in the background. Despite being knee high to a pig’s eye, I felt like an equal in those hours spent getting pulled, burned, and reshaped. I watched my mother become someone she didn’t get to be at work or at home, and got to exercise being someone I wasn’t comfortable expressing in my all-White-but-me classrooms. Sisterhood, I learned back then, was something to be fostered. Those bonds were a powerful weapon in the world.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also learned a great deal about the power of appearances; a simple tweak of your locks could signal a slew of life changes. Hell, they could even lead to life changes if you looked good enough. Most importantly, I learned how to take care of myself in a way that is unique to my culture and rooted in history. To this day, my favorite way to show affection to others and myself is through hair.

The web of my life is punctuated by different hairstyles: an unfortunate jherri curl in elementary school, then braids that seemed to get shorter and more manicured as I navigated puberty, a relaxer when I was trying desperately to look like a grown up, then locs when I decided to be different in a way that was true to me. When I look at pictures, I can identify the period, the feeling, and the desires lurking below the surface by the way my hair was styled. It’s magic in a form the world can scarce reckon with.

Learning the history of Black hair is a great way to learn about ourselves, and for others to learn why we take it so seriously. For some it’s just hair, but for us it has meant rebellion, freedom, and home. Below are two of my favorite explorations of what Black hair means to us and why it seems to be the way we come together in pursuit of peace. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

 

Friday Media Prep: You MUST Read These 5 Books By Black Women

Every Friday I will feature the inspiring books, movies, TV shows, and other works of art you have to check out.  Please share your suggestions below!

Who would we be without books? I often think about the times in my life when a book brought be back from the darkness, and the ways reading made my life seem worthwhile again. On the other side of that coin are all the times an author pushed me to the brink, forcing my spirit to see things I hadn’t previously perceived. There is magic in the written word and being able to wield worlds in the space between covers.

Black women who write have been my salvation. In this life, in this body, I have felt the most magically undone at the hands of their words.  That is why I’ve chosen to feature five books by five authors who came into my life at exactly the right time. Each book has coaxed a pinch of growth from my soul whether I was prepared for it or not, which is precisely what a good book is supposed to do. I truly hope you will give one or all of these books a go after reading why I have loved them. Enjoy!

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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison 

I owe an eternal debt to Oprah’s Book Club for selecting this book, which led to my mother buying the book, leaving it laying around, and catching my eye (no pun intended). The young black girl on the cover – a representation of the heroine, Pecola – felt familiar in a way no book had before. The contents were more familiar than I’d dare imagine.

Set in Ohio, the short novel follows two black sisters and their relationship with the young Pecola, a little girl who is considered ugly, because of her dark skin, short hair, and poverty. Pecola wishes for blue eyes so that she may be as beautiful as the dolls in the shops, and the novel tracks her quest to capture them. To call this book heartbreaking would be an understatement, but reading it made me feel less alone and seen in unforseen ways. It’s a brilliant  exploration of generational trauma, colorism, self-loathing, racism and the effects of poverty. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

I don’t think there’s a more  pertinent book for any of us to read in these times. Set in the very near future, Octavia E. Butler’s book (the first of two) is set in a time of climate-related disaster, broken governments and wealth inequality. The heroine, Lauren, possesses “hyperempathy”, or the ability to feel the pain and emotions of others as she witnesses it.  Lauren develops a religion called Earthseed in order to prepare those who follow her for a life beyond Earth.

Octavia E. Butler’s books changed my mind about what kinds of books Black women are allowed to write. For years I thought only White men could craft science fiction adventures, as that was all I had available in my library. Stumbling upon Ms. Butler’s books in Barnes and Noble one day changed all that, thankfully. Her vision is unmatched, in my humble opinion, and her capacity for hope has kept me from losing my own.

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Dancing on the Edge of the Roof by Sheila Williams

Black women in love gives me my greatest joy. Plain old, regular degular love, folks. I have inherited a soft heart from my mother, one that craves romance and tales of starting over to discover what lies beneath our fears and dreams. This lovely book by Sheila Williams was one of my first romance novels, and I have returned to it time and time again. It is delightfully effervescent, the kind of story that I didn’t want to end when it finally had to.

The story follows middle-aged mother and new grandmother, Juanita, on her journey to California to start her life again. She gets broken down in a small Montana town along the way and finds more than she bargained for – home.

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White Teeth by Zadie Smith

This book i just damn good. I mean, hopefully you know about the powerhouse talent that is Zadie Smith, but if not you should get acquainted with her via this one. I can scarce sum it up without going on for days, so just suffice to say that you have to give her a go. White Teeth has it all: War, love, science, 90s-era nostalgia, race, and transcendence. Dear reader, you would be remiss to skip it.

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Passing by Nella Larsen

Nella Larsen tackled a topic that I believe is still very taboo in the Black community. The concept of “passing”, i.e. being of a light enough complexion to cross the color barrier and claim a White identity, was and is something few of us talk about. Nella Larsen herself played with race in her own life, living alternately as a Black woman in the Harlem Renaissance, then attempting to disappear into White society to escape the persecution.

This book explores the lives of two friends who can pass for White and the paths they chose, one as a White woman married to a White man, and the other as a Black woman married to a Black man. It left me with sinking feeling, but it was a necessary exercise if I want to truly be considered a “book person”. This book is going to be made into a film, which I look forward to watching.

That’s all for today, my friends! Thank you, as always for coming along on the journey with me. Enjoy your weekends, whether you be snowed in, or free to roam the streets. Maybe give one of these titles a once-over?